MS MR mixes it up at House of Blues

Photo by TYLER KOHLHOFF -- MS MR
Photo by TYLER KOHLHOFF -- MS MR

NYC duo experiences ‘Secondhand Rapture’ with debut album

“Secondhand Rapture,” the album debut from New York City duo MS MR, rises on tides of beguiling pop songs dressed in symphonic sweep and cathedral ambience.

It says much about MS MR’s music that track two on “Secondhand Rapture,” the majestically percussive “Bones,” was used in the trailer for the third season of “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s fantasy series about warring clans in the mythical land of Westeros.

Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow are MS MR’s principals. They’re joined on tour by a drummer and bassist. Otherwise, it would be difficult to realize their grand musical vision on stage.

The pair will perform Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the Parish at the House of Blues.

“Max and I were adamant from the beginning that it was never going to be just the two of us on stage with a laptop,” Plapinger said. “That’s not that exciting for an audience or us. More importantly, it would undermine the scope of the music.”

Working at Hershenow’s tiny home studio in Brooklyn in 2011, Plapinger and Hershenow invested a year into creating what became their debut album.

“We’d never done this before,” Hershenow said. “So, the fact that it only took us a year feels like an accomplishment. So many people spend five or 10 years or their entire life working up to their first record.”

Following that year of writing and recording in Brooklyn, MS MR handed their creations to Grammy-winning mixing engineer Tom Elmhirst (Adele, Amy Winehouse, The Black Keys). Over a month’s time, the duo and Elmhirst collaborated at Electric Lady Studios in New York and at Elmhirst’s London studio, Metropolis.

Plapinger and Hershenow had been apprehensive about entrusting their songs to anyone else.

“These are the first songs we’ve ever written,” she said. “It was really an intimate process, just Max and me, writing in a room. We were incredibly proud and protective of what we’d made.”

Admiration for Elmhirst quelled the duo’s fears.

“Tom has been such a hero of ours,” Plapinger said. “When he signed on to mix the record, we were incredibly excited.” Elmhirst proved a great choice for MS MR.

“What’s so special about Tom,” Plapinger said, “is that, even with his incredible experience, it wasn’t about him or his ego. He made the record more us. He fully realized our vision and ambition for it. That’s the mark of a brilliant mixer.”

Following the release of the excellently reviewed “Secondhand Rapture,” MS MR’s performances included a sold-out show at New York’s Bowery Ballroom, “Late Night with David Letterman,” the U.K.’s Glastonbury Festival and Chicago’s Lollapalooza.

Appearing at Glastonbury was a special occasion for the London born and raised Plapinger.

“Glastonbury is a festival I went to a lot during my adolescence,” she said. “We got to play on the John Peel Stage, a legendary stage for new artists. It was a huge milestone, for us as a band and for me personally, to play a festival that I’ve always cherished.”